Having already decided to stay put and expand its campus in Pasadena, the Art Center College of Design now has its eye on a defunct power station that would become the new public face of the prestigious school.

Art Center officials said they are in the early stages of negotiations with the city to take over the Glenarm Power Plant at Glenarm Street and Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena. The power plant, which stands on a 7.5-acre site, was built in 1927 and has been closed for almost 20 years. It served as an unused backup source for the city's Broadway Power Plant until 10 years ago.

The city, which wants to save the buildings from the wrecking ball, is more interested in a long-term land lease than an outright sale of the property to Art Center.

If the deal closes, Art Center will have aced out the California State University System, which has been eyeing the power plant as a potential home for a life sciences center to be shared by area university research departments.

However, Cal State hasn't given up on the power plant property, according to Eric Duyshart, Pasadena's business development manager. He said that Art Center's plan for the buildings would only take up half the site, leaving the other half for Cal State to develop, once old storage tanks are removed.

Duyshart said that the city has drafted an exclusive negotiation agreement that would keep both sides from looking elsewhere to meet their respective agendas.

"We don't want to spin our wheels on something that's not going to happen, so we want them to be serious about it," Duyshart said.

The Art Center is serious all right. George Falardeau, vice president of operations and real estate, said the school has looked at other sites, but is smitten with the historic buildings and majestic fountain on the power station property. The Art Center is excited about what renowned architect Frank Gehry might do with the place.

Art Center officials said the school's academic operations will remain on the 175-acre hillside campus above the Rose Bowl, and that the new location would serve as a center for public outreach. The two buildings on the power plant site would be redesigned by Gehry, and would feature exhibition space, a print shop, community education programs and incubator offices.

Falardeau said Art Center officials are evaluating the cost of the entire expansion program and he estimated that a capital campaign would need to raise about $160 million. Who would be responsible for addressing the site's environmental issues asbestos, equipment removal, etc. will be decided in negotiations, Duyshart said.

Meanwhile, at the Art Center's main campus, a 133,000-square-foot expansion is planned, and Gehry has been retained to design that project as well.

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